Half Moon Bay ‘Dream Machines’ car-airplane-boat show canceled this year

The annual Half Moon Bay car-plane-boat show, Pacific Coast Dream Machines, has been grounded after organizers struggled to secure necessary permits from the Federal Aviation Administration on time.

For 30 years, scores of car buffs, aviation nerds and bikers have revved their engines and set out for for the annual show each spring, which also serves as a fundraiser for the Coastside Adult Day Health Center. The event relies on around 200 volunteers to go on.

“It’s definitely disappointing,” said Chad Hooker, chairman of the event and a board member for the health center. “It’s such an important event, not just for Coastside, but for the whole community.”

It’s not the first time that the event organizers have had to slam the brakes on the show in recent years — in 2020 and 2021, the coronavirus pandemic shut down the event. The ‘Dream’ was deferred for a third year in 2022 after the airport revealed that it had allowed a farmer to plant crops on part of the its property typically used for the event. Finally, in 2023, the event was allowed to go on.

But this year, when organizers applied to the FAA for the typical permits required to use the airport space, they were met with a more stringent regulations than they had faced in the past, further drawing out the permitting process. When the FAA came back to them in December, asking for even more studies of the event site plan, the organizers felt they didn’t have enough time to set up the rest of the event.

“At that point it was so late in the game, that it was too risky to continue moving forward,” said Ronan Fowler, one of the event’s organizers. “They gave us five months for an event that takes a year to plan. … Even if we had the permit go-ahead, it was so late that it was too big of a financial risk to put together the rest of the pieces.”

The cancellation leaves the Adult Day Health Center scrambling to come up with the $80,000 to $100,000 that it typically raises from the event, their biggest fundraiser of the year.

“It’s going to be really hard,” Hooker said.

The FAA’s increased permitting requirements also leave the fate of two other major events at San Mateo County’s airports up in the air: the Emergency Vehicle Operation Course, a safe-driving training for local law enforcement hosted by the Sheriff’s Office at the Half Moon Bay Airport; and the Runway Run organized by the Hiller Aviation Museum at the San Carlos Airport.

In a news release, the county said that it had applied for permits for all three events, but that the FAA will require safety and environmental reviews prior to potentially granting approval.

“All three of these events are well-loved and appreciated in the county and we were hopeful to see them return in 2024,” said Airports Director Gretchen Kelly in a statement. “However, we also understand that the organizers must do what they deem best. We’re keeping our fingers crossed now that the other two shows will still happen this year and that Dream Machines can return in 2025.”

Hooker said that he’s already turned his efforts to organizing for next year.

“Dream Machines is by no means dead and we’re planning to come back,” he said.

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